The Center for Technology, Innovation and Manufacturing (CTIM), located on the Vincennes University Jasper (VUJ) Campus, is seeing a flurry of activity, with nearly 10,000 people crossing the threshold of the facility during the 2018-19 academic year.
A record number of 9,905 people attended classes, trainings, meetings, and programming at the CTIM in the last year. Traffic in the 54,000-square-foot building has increased significantly and since 2017-18 is up 24.4 percent, reflecting the critical role the facility plays in the region toward workforce development.
Now more than ever, businesses are challenged with recruiting and training their workforce. The CTIM has helped employers tackle the personnel challenge and overcome the talent gap by utilizing both incumbent worker training programs and by recruiting highly skilled VUJ graduates into careers locally.
“Manufacturing is changing. It is going to a more automated process and as that happens, one of our goals is to help skill incumbent workers up and skill the next generation of manufacturing workers in regards to robotics, programmable logic controller (PLC), computer numerical control (CNC), electronics, and all the other course offerings that we provide,” said CTIM Director Jacob Berg.
The CTIM is home to the Career Advancement Partnership (CAP) program, a major workforce development initiative between VU Jasper and local manufacturing companies. Students learn high-demand industrial maintenance skills while working internships with industry partners, including Indiana Furniture, Jasper Engines and Transmissions, Kimball Electronics, Kimball International, MasterBrand Cabinets, Farbest Foods, and others. The work/learn format allows students to graduate with an associate degree after two years and, in many cases, earn enough money to offset the cost of the degree.
Currently, the CAP program supports 25 student internships with nine different local industry partners.
“We are so fortunate to have the support of our local manufacturers. They are directly involved with the CAP program and they show a vested interest in the success of our students,” Berg said.
Beginning with the 2019 fall semester, the CTIM will also house three programs for the Patoka Valley Career and Technical Education (CTE) Cooperative. High school juniors and seniors from 10 regional school corporations are eligible to enroll in Constructions Trades, Computer Repair/Networking, and the Automation and Robotics Academy (ARA). There are currently 52 high school students signed up to attend courses at the CTIM during the 2019-20 school year.
The Automation and Robotics Academy introduces a totally new approach to technical education where high school students are immersed into a learning environment that combines lab instruction and real-time work experience. Developed through the ROI Ready Schools Grant Initiative, the Academy is a collaboration between Vincennes University Jasper, Hub 19 and the Patoka Valley CTE Cooperative. Students will learn technical skills in robotics, industrial automation controls, electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, and other related topics. The AR Academy is one of the first of its kind in the nation, leading the way as an example of how industry and education can collaborate to create opportunities for students.
“The whole community is really excited – since we are a community built on manufacturing – that we’re offering students in high school the opportunity to get a head start on learning about the automated process in manufacturing,” Berg said.
“The AR Academy will give participants a real advantage in the workforce, making them highly sought after, skilled individuals in a job market with an insatiable appetite for talent. Graduates will find a real pathway to prosperity in the region,” VU Jasper Assistant Vice President and Dean Christian Blome said.
VU Jasper is also an approved site to offer certificates in industrial technology. Berg is currently working with industry partners to identify potential concentrations in areas such as robotics, machining and product design.
“We’re driven to meet the needs of the community and we are involved in a lot of different conversations with community leaders in efforts to provide the programming that is going to benefit manufacturing and construction in our area,” Berg said. “We’re constantly engaging with companies and the community to find out what we can do to move them forward.”
Recently, Berg learned that the local plumber’s association had a need for a facilitator to host required apprenticeship coursework. He met with leaders and drafted an agreement to host classes at the VUJ CTIM four nights per week.
“This is just another example of how we are eager to meet the needs of our community,” Berg said. “We are optimistic that this new partnership will lead to expanded programming in the construction trades.”
Apprenticeship classes will start in September of 2019.
Incumbent worker training is another piece of the success story at VUJ’s CTIM building, with options that are highly customizable and portable. Courses are designed to meet the immediate training needs of the employer.
Through a recent workforce engagement survey, local industry identified training needs and VUJ responded by launching 35 new training programs including: Basic AC/DC Electrical Systems, Electric Motor Control, Risk Management in Manufacturing Operations, Workplace Spanish for Supervisors, Basic Hydraulics, Basic Quality Concepts, and many others. To further align programming with industry partners, VU Jasper launched an aggressive industry and community engagement campaign through advisory boards and regular one-on-one meetings with employers to ensure trainings continue to be relevant and innovative with industry-driven content.
Since opening in 2013, the $12 million CTIM has become a go-to in the region whether it be for government employees, non-profit organizations, youth or individuals from the private sector, they’re all engaging at a high level in a modern, state-of-the-art setting. The CTIM also provides facilities, equipment, and space for businesses and organizations to host employer-sponsored trainings. Employers benefit from a reserved and highly curated space to maximize the impact of scheduled trainings, causing employers and organizations to seek out the CTIM as their training partner of choice.
“The CTIM is the hub for community engagement in local education. It is a shared building that brings all stakeholders to the table to discuss and learn from each other. The CTIM hosts meetings that bring together some of the most influential people in our community, all who share a common vision for the students and community that we serve,” Berg said.
With rising enrollment on a growing campus, the CTIM is making significant upgrades to its equipment and facility. Vincennes University is making major investments in CTIM facility training equipment for the 2019-20 academic year. It’s increasing its collection of robotic arms, bettering audio/visual capabilities in laboratories with interactive flat panels utilizing touch technology, and acquiring new training equipment for programs such as HVAC, hydraulics, PLC, robotics and pneumatics. The upgraded versions of Autodesk and Microsoft software are available. Other software is being upgraded as well.
Additional degree programs, expanded training offerings and new partnerships are on the horizon for the CTIM.
“As industries continue to evolve, the VUJ CTIM will continue to drive innovation and growth in the region through cutting-edge technologies presented in new and engaging ways. We will push the boundaries on the traditional education approach, further blurring the lines between the classroom and the workplace,” Blome said. “The future is bright for Vincennes University Jasper, Dubois County, and the region.”